NWIRP Files Action On Behalf Of Immigrants Fleeing Persecution Denied Bond Hearings


Contact: Matt Adams, Legal Director, NWIRP

matt@nwirp.org | 206.957.8611

September 14th 2016


Seattle, WA – Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) has filed a habeas petition and class action complaint in Federal District Court on behalf of immigrants locked up at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington. The suit alleges that the federal government unlawfully denies certain immigrants seeking protection from deportation the opportunity to ask an immigration judge for release on bond while their cases are completed. As a result, these individuals remain locked up in federal facilities and private prisons like the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) for several months, often in excess of a year, and sometimes for multiple years.

Background: If a person has previously been deported and then returns without authorization, they are subject to a summary deportation process where the prior deportation order is reinstated without a new hearing before an immigration judge. However, an exception to this expedited process exists if the person demonstrates a reasonable fear of being persecuted or tortured if they are deported. In those cases, the person is permitted an opportunity to go before an immigration judge to present their case for “withholding of removal,” a form of protection that is similar to asylum, as well as for protection under the Convention Against Torture.

The Lawsuit: The complaint alleges that the mandatory detention of these persons who have been found to have a reasonable fear of persecution, without even an opportunity to have an Immigration Judge consider whether they should be released while these lengthy civil proceedings remain pending, violates both the immigration laws enacted by Congress and the Constitutional right to liberty. The complaint also contends that there are more than eighty persons detained at the NWDC in Tacoma who are subject to “withholding only” proceedings, and that this policy affects several hundred people in Tacoma over the course of a year.

“What is particularly aggravating is that the government is taking this approach to persons whom they have already determined have a reasonable fear of persecution and torture,” said Matt Adams, Legal Director for NWIRP.  “Every single one of them was able to demonstrate to an asylum officer or immigration judge that they have a legitimate claim to remain in this country. It is unconscionable to deny them an opportunity for an individualized custody determination—especially where the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has already made clear in no uncertain terms that it is unlawful to detain immigrants for more than six months without at least providing custody hearings.”

Lead Plaintiff Arturo Martinez Baños was previously deported to Mexico where he was then kidnapped, beaten and tortured by uniformed police officers. After being released, he fled back to the United States, where he was again apprehended by immigration officials. Because immigration officials determined that he has a reasonable fear of persecution, he was permitted an opportunity to present his full case for protection before an immigration judge. After determining that Mr. Martinez was not a flight risk or a threat to the community, the Immigration Judge allowed Mr. Martinez to post a $10,000 bond so that he could be released during these lengthy proceedings.

However, after Mr. Martinez was released, the Board of Immigration Appeals ruled that Immigration Judges have no authority to conduct custody hearings—and therefore grant release on bond—for persons like Mr. Martinez. Instead, the agency ruled that they are subject to mandatory detention.

The complaint can be viewed here